Lloyd Webber limbers up for an all-singing, all-dancing lid-lifting look at the Profumo scandal

by Jeremy Miles

What a difference 50 years makes! Back in 1963 The Profumo Affair shocked the nation to its very foundations. Now it looks likely to become the subject of a West End musical.

For those who may not know, John Profumo was a top politician and something of a socialite. Married to actress Valerie Hobson who had found a certain degree of fame in the 1930s in horror films like The Bride of Frankenstein and The Werewolf of London, he was the epitome of the smooth, urbane man about town. Crucially he was also Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative Government.

So when it was discovered that he had had an affair with model and showgirl Christine Keeler who was also the reputed mistress of an alleged Soviet spy all hell broke loose. It was the height of the Cold War. Questions were asked in the House. Profumo tried to lie his way out of trouble. It didn’t work. He had to resign. The Government teetered on the edge of disaster as the unedifying details of his brief tryst with Keeler became public knowledge. Central to the stories that emerged was a house party attended by both Profumo and Keeler at Clivedon, Lord Astor’s palatial Buckinghamshire mansion.

Also present was friend of the aristocracy and networking supremo Dr Stephen Ward, a fashionable osteopath and society party fixer. Ward had introduced Profumo to Keeler. It was suggested that he might also have introduced her to  Yevengy Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy. Such connections appalled the nation. The security implications were unthinkable. The entire sordid story went into overdrive. East v West, Left v Right. Ward was caught in a firestorm of allegations.

Eventually he was charged with living off immoral earnings. He committed suicide taking an overdosing on sleeping pills on the last day of his trial. But did he actually kill himself? Conspiracy theories followed – that he was murdered by an assassin delivering a lethal injection, that he was working for the Russians, that he was an occultist dabbling in black magic.

Andrew Lloyd-Webber believes that, whatever the truth, Stephen Ward was a scapegoat and stitched-up by the establishment. He has now been working on a new musical based on the subject for the past few months.

Whatever you do or don’t believe, Lloyd Webber points that the inside info on the Profumo affair will remain a closed file till 2046?” Intriguingly Cliveden, now a luxury hotel, seems rather proud of the role it played in the Profumo Scandal. It unashamedly uses it in its publicity including a mention on its website timeline alongside a short BBC video about the affair.

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